Socialization and legalization of ethnic belief and knowledge with its role in improving behavior towards forest, land, water in protected watershed forest has recently become an important and urgently needed strategy in Mekong countries.
CHESH Lao, with consistent cooperation with Mong, Kho Mu, Lao Lum ethnic groups, co-implementation of PAFO and financial support from ICCO ; has been practicing the strategy of “customary laws based community development” in the three villages of Long Lan, Xiang Da and Nam Kha in the two districts of Nam Bac and Luang Prabang of Luang Prabang province from 1999 - 2009. This work has created valuable practical lessons-learnt and has been recognized by officials and the populous as an effective strategy for community development .
CHESH has been practicing an ethnic psychological approach to maximize local knowledge, belief and practice in harmonious behavior towards nature and the flexible application of community customary laws for resolutions of land, forest conflicts and forest management in the three villages of Long Lan, Xiang Da and Nam Kha. The practical outcomes and indicators from these three villages have attracted interest from universities , researchers, media , local and central officials, ethnic groups in Laos, Vietnam and Thailand and several other social actors. There has been keen interest from these parties in learning about this approach and its application.
Results and recommendations from the workshop of CHESH- PAFO – PEOPLE in Lao are credible indicators of the importance of expanding pilots and to continue with the socialization strategy as demonstrated by ten-years (1999 – 2009) of CHESH development activities in Luang Prabang. Target groups are ethnic minority people living in the Mekong watershed who are particularly vulnerable. This is especially relevant in the context of major global environmental challenges such as climate change.
The positive outcomes of CHESH – PAFO – PEOPLE have influenced the Luang Prabang provincial authority to suggest that CHESH Lao help support and advise them in expanding pilot models of watershed forest management based on ethnic belief and customary law in other areas in the province; Long Lan is a model of living curriculum, successful indicators, positive aspiration and human behavior that we can look to for examples of real solutions in the current context of global environmental challenges.
Globalization has deeply affected most families and communities in the region during recent years. Modernization programs, hydropower plants and cash crop plantations for example take away large areas of fertile agricultural land and forest from local communities. Traditional community social institutions and cultural values are being damaged and eroded at the same time. Villagers lose the spaces that are important to nurture their beliefs, spiritual values, customary laws and practice of moral behavioral norms.